Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I Speak Good English

Today at Mustafa (yes, I go there alot) I saw a book called "1,000 Commonly Mispronounced English Words" and my first thought was, "according to whom?" It seemed like it was written for people learning English with an Indian language being their first - I was disappointed that it was shrink wrapped so I couldn't look in it.

I've mentioned before that often I can't understand the Singaporean accent. Once in MacDonald's the server had to ask me three times if I wanted "oats" on my yogurt. How differently can you say the word "oats"? In addition to the accent, there are words they say differently, like "metabolism" which is pronounced, "met-a-BOL- ism." Or aluminum which is "AL-u-MIN-ium." Ethan's name is pronounced "Ee-tahn" and Megan is "Mee-gahn." I've noticed they usually place emphasis on different syllables than American English.

Not only do they pronounce things differently, they have different words for many things, mostly British. Like shopping cart is trolley, parking lot is car park, elevator is lift. They don't "turn on the light", they just "on the light" or "off the light." And when the Indians speak English it can sometimes take me a full minute to realize that I should be able to understand them.

I say this not to knock Singaporeans or Indians, but rather, to point out that there isn't one correct way to speak English. As English becomes more and more global, can we ever really define what "real" English is?


Andy-boi said...

:( can't we? don't we have correct pronunciations that they just can't get? it can still be indian english or singaporean english - it just won't be correct pronunciation. if they can't pronounce things the right way, do we have to excuse it or call it a new version of english? can't they just speak english while pronouncing things incorrectly?

the best objection to what I just said is that we have very different english pronunciations even within America and especially between America and Britian. Still, those accents are MUCH easier to understand.

hmmm i guess i'll think about it some more. good question

Gina Marie said...

I thought of this before I saw the book at Mustafa because of two people I know here getting married - one is Canadian, one is from Alabama or Arkansas, I forget. They're having to give each other English lessons. :)

Liz said...

Hey Gina..
Have you been getting my text messages?
I'm curious. Another friend of mine was having trouble receiving them.

Gina Marie said...


I got one, but my phone was off for a few days.

Am said...

Isn't it amazing how international English is becoming? In Japan people always try to speak English to me, even if I speak Japanese. The Japanse accent takes some getting used to also. I agree that we can't really define correct English. For example, I teach English to people in Japan so they are learning American or Minnesotan (scary!) English. Sometimes my students will come up with a word that I've never heard of and find out it's British English.

Liz said...

Wierd...there must be something wrong with my phone!

Duck Hunter said...

I think there IS a wrong way and a correct way for pronunciation.

When I visit different areas of the US, I hear different words and phrases, but mostly, the pronunciation is the same.

I guess you have to have a starting point to learn from.

Liz said...

Hey Gina!

No problem. I was hoping everything was o.k. Just call me and let me know what night would be good; 6299-5737. We have an answering machine so if I'm not here leave a message. I have new student orientation this week during the day. Tuesday & Wednesday evening are not good.

My roommate went to your church today. She says it's not super far from here. I'm getting a little discouraged about churches. They are all so far away and none of them have really jumped out at me as somewhere I'd like to make my home church.

Gina Marie said...

Duck Hunter,

But is the correct pronunciation standard British or standard American? And who exactly speaks standard American? And if you're not in Britain or America, which one do you follow? It's like we're all somewhat of a deviation from a standard.